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CWA # 109, 15 April 2019

The World this Week
Coup in Sudan, Protests in Algeria & Libya, and another Brexit Extension

  GP Team

In North Africa, during last week, Sudan, Algeria and Libya witnessed a series of nationwide protests to end the authoritarian rule. Sudan witnessed a military coup; peace protests in Algeria have now become violent, and peace talks in Libya are suspended with militia attack. In Europe, Brexit gets an extension but MP deadlock continues thereby questioning what sort of governance will Britain be left with?   

Lakshmi Menon, Harini Madhusudan, Abigail Fernandez and Sourina Bej

 

Sudan: Protests and the End of Bashir’s regime

What happened?

On 11 April, Sudan’s protestors celebrated the victory of the military overthrow of the long-time ruler Omar al-Bashar. The military took over while promising to hand over power to a civilian government within two years following consultations with the oppositions. The celebration soon turned to frustration. Protestors rejected the military takeover headed by Awad ibn Auf. Shortly, he resigned and Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhann, the inspector general of the military, swore in as the military transitional council chief.

What is the background?

The Bashir government had mishandled the economy, causing regular fuel shortages and soaring food prices. The December 2018 decision to triple the price of bread sparked the protest movement. Since then, demands had escalated to end Bashir’s three-decade tenure. A nationwide state of emergency aiming to confine protests to Khartoum and Omdurman was imposed on 22 February, after attempts to clamp down on protesters failed. Through the Sudanese Security Council, Bashar refused to step down stating his opponents must seek power through the ballot box.

On 6 April, rallies outside the army headquarters marking the 34th anniversary of 1985 uprising which ousted the then-President Jaafar Nimeiri commenced. The military had removed Nimeiri and transferred power to the elected government which was later in the 1989 coup toppled by Bashir. As per HRW, over 60 people have died since the protests erupted. Additionally, the National Intelligence and Security Service have detained and jailed hundreds including journalists, activists and opposition leaders.

What does it mean?

Sudan has seen two successful revolutions, in 1964 and 1985. Both were peaceful transitions with minimal state and economic disruptions and devoid of retaliation against former regime followers. The current upsurge is distinctive. A genuinely popular uprising emanating from country-sides, it is not elite-driven and is practically leaderless. Professional organisations raising specific regime change demands led civil disobedience campaigns and a series of mass protests to forge consensus.

The ongoing wave is highly polarized.

Bashar’s regime, unlike predecessors, enjoyed a hard-core militant base and an enduring core of staunch Islamist popular support. If anti-Islamist Sudan (in popular terms) does not find means to win over the largely Islamist military and absorb estranged Islamists, the conflict will endure and escalate. Strong anti-Islamist rhetoric may strengthen Islamists’ support to the regime for pure reasons of self-preservation, thus peaking cruelty and fanning flames of protests. However, the pressing question now is whether a civilian transitional council must replace the military interim council.

 

Protests in Algeria: Who will budge now?

What happened?

After the police in Algeria, toughened their tactics, the officers in their riot gear clashed with the protestors on 12 April. Initially a peaceful rally in central Algiers, it deteriorated into street violence. It can be considered the worst so far since the peaceful marches began mid-February demanding an end to the 20-year rule of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The protests, however, continued after he resigned on 2 April. The police seem to have used tear gas and water cannon and scuffled with the demonstrators. The demonstrators, in turn, hurled bottles and also set alight at least one police car after turning large dumpsters into barricades. This has led to injuries on both sides and also has arrested scores of protestors.

What is the background?

After the resignation of the President, it became the duty of the interim president to arrange for the next election. In the case of Algeria, it is scheduled for 4 July 2019. One of the reasons for the protests to continue is because they do not trust the interim president Abdelkader Bensalah, who is known to be an aide of the former president. They strongly believe that the leaders who emerge from the Bouteflika ‘system’ would not hold free and fair elections. Three days before the riot on the 12 April, the police had tried to repress a student demonstration in the same manner, with tear gas and water cannon.

What does it mean?

The situation is likely to get worse. There is no sign that the interim president would be willing to listen to the protestors. Nor there is any sign that the protestors would stop. The protestors are also receiving support from the statements of the Algerian magistrates club, who have announced to boycott the elections in July in support of the protestors. The military general who played an instrumental role in bringing down Bouteflika, has thrown his support to the interim leader now.

 

Libya: The UN peace talks suspended

What happened?

On 5 April, Antonio Guterres UN Secretary-General was in Tripoli for the preparation of the upcoming peace summit before the elections scheduled for the end of this year. But militia leader General Khalifa Haftar throttled the peace talks with violent attacks. Now the UN conference stands postponed indefinitely.

What is the background?

Once the rule of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi came to an end nearly ten years ago the people of Libya thought they would witness change but the country had become worse. The western half of the country is led by the UN-backed government based out of Tripoli, but it had struggled to assert control over the city as a number of militias began to spring up. The eastern side, on the other hand, is ruled by Haftar, who strategically used the various local militias in the east for his own cause. From the fragments of Libya’s army, he brought together a fighting force known as the Libyan National Army (LNA) once again strategically adding personnel and equipment.  Haftar started the military offensives from the east of Libya three months back, including seizing key oilfields in the south.

What does it mean?

Libya is home to Africa’s largest oil reserves and is a big player in the natural gas market. This is an important aspect that determines the events that have unfolded in Libya. However, the problem is much more complex that has not only economic implications but also political and social implications.

Why Haftar decided to retaliate when the Guterres was visiting the country to take part in a peace conference is still unknown. However, he is the best-equipped leader in Libya to fight and take over the city because regarding the situation of militia in Tripoli- they have been fighting amongst themselves. Haftar’s restore to the country will still be a difficult battle, even though he has constantly said that the country is not ready for democracy.

 

UK: Brexit extended to October 31

What happened?

On 12 April, the European Union (EU) has agreed to give the UK until 31 October to ratify the withdrawal deal. The bloc has however put forth three conditions. Firstly, if the UK manages to get the ratification before 31 October then it has to exit the union the following month from the date of the ratification. Secondly, if the UK fails to get the ratification by 22 May it has to take part in the European Parliament elections scheduled between May 22 to 26 May, failing which will need the UK to leave the bloc by 1 June. Thirdly the future of the EU- UK relationship will be discussed after Britain has left the bloc.

What is the background?

So far, MPs have rejected three times in a row the withdrawal agreement of Theresa May reached with other European leaders last year and they have voted against leaving the EU without a deal. Post the fourth rejection, May had met with opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to negotiate the terms of the deal.  The talk with Corbyn assumes significance for May to get her deal passed especially when her party members are divided into the methods of ‘Brexiting.’ In the meantime, May told leaders that she wanted to move the UK's exit date from this Friday to 30 June, with the option of leaving earlier if Parliament ratified her agreement.

What does it mean?

The extension now leaves Britain with six options. Firstly, if the deadlock among ministers is not reconciled there would be no deal on 1 June. Secondly, if a compromise with the Labour is not achieved and there is no majority among MPs for an alternative then May’s deal with the EU could stand still. Thirdly, a major renegotiation could be worked on. Fourthly, a referendum could be done to check the people’s opinion once more. Fifthly, May could insist the MP’s call for an early election as a way out of the deadlock. Lastly, if negotiations would Labour party fails then Corbyn could go for another no-confidence motion.

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